Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace. (The Peavar and Volokhonsky translation.) I'm not sure what to say about this. I hadn't read it in about 12 years and I have to say it was a lot of fun - it's a big juicy novel. I enjoyed the characters and even the history(diatribes)- in fact I thought the background was the most fun. I had more appreciation for prince Andrei this time, and less sympathy for Pierre. But by the end I was enraged at so many things. The ending- the relationships of Natasha and Pierre, Marya and Nikolai, were so disappointing. Even more than in Anna Karenina, I felt that the women weren't actually people. And Tostoy's attitudes about marriage were infuriating, even in context of the time. Not that the center of a marriage is creating a family, but the relationship between husband and wife is so lopsided. I don't like the implication that the wife is almost solely a vessel for the reflection and refinement of her husband's personality. Natasha was especially obnoxious, and while Marya had potential to be an interesting person, it didn't happen. I want to be clear, I liked the happy domestic scenes (and the breastfeeding), it was Tolstoy's condescending and limiting views on the rest of the role of a wife that was infuriating. The scene with Marya's diary almost made me vomit. But I guess that I've changed a lot in a dozen years, maybe I'm less able to accept things uncritically, or maybe I just have another perspective on life.
After posting, I realized that I had better explain, because I know it's the family tradition to love Pierre. So here's why Pierre is basically worthless. Yes he has a good heart. I like him, especially when he's drinking, feels bad, and won't get off the couch. But his role as an intellectual is a monumental waste. He's a follower - a guru-hopper - he doesn't have any substance. His feelings are good, but he never develops any discipline. What he really needs is a regular job - all that money is bad for him. He's really only any good when he has something to do. At the very least, he needs a counterpoint, a challenge; but Andrei's dead, and Natasha is quite the opposite.